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There’s a lot more going on at Montreat Conference Center during the summer than you might image. And most of it is open to residents of the Swannanoa Valley.

With groups and organizations showing up for retreats all season, the conference center’s pottery, crafts, hiking, boating and worship opportunities are going strong and open to the public through Aug. 6, as are its tennis courts and its famous Friday night barn dances.

Affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and hosting people from many religious affiliations, Montreat Conference Center puts on a Sunday morning worship service series in Anderson Auditorium that hosts preachers from throughout the region (check the roster at montreat.org/summer-worship). During weekdays, the public is invited to join nightly conference worship.

“We have a long-standing tradition here,” Tanner Pickett said, “of trying to make sure we’re providing worship opportunities for people coming here for conferences but also for people in the broader community here. We use our arts ministry people to help add additional elements to the worship service, so it’s a service people haven’t experienced.” Pickett is the conference center’s vice president of sales, marketing and communication.

Craft and pottery classes are taught each day at Wilbur Hoke Currie Craft Center & Sally Jones Pottery (check Montreat.org/twim for schedules). Recent classes included calligraphy, jewelry making, knitting and button making, all led by the craft center’s staff or artists in residence. Classes change from week to week and charge small fees. They’re open to community residents 12 and older.

Kids from 4 years old to seniors in high school can be part of the conference center’s clubs program (Montreat.org/clubs). During each weeklong session, some 120 college-age counselors guide the kids through a day of activities, fellowship and fun. Swimming, paddle-boating, devotions, arts and wilderness education are part of each week, all presented in age-appropriate ways.

“To this day, I still run across people all over the country who are adults who had an amazing club experience,” Pickett said.

The conference center maintains more than 30 miles of hiking trails and offers free guided hikes every Tuesday and Thursday throughout summer (more at Montreat.org/twim). During typical weeks, a half-day and a full-day hike are offered. “If people want to know more about the history of the (Swannanoa) Valley or the ecology, this is a great way to do it,” Pickett said.

The center also has tennis courts by reservation and a swimming pool open daily throughout the summer (noon-1 p.m. for laps, 1-6 p.m. for general fun). There are small fees for either event (more at Montreat.org/play).

Robert Lake Park is used for summer conference activities, but there are times each day when it is open to the public. People can also fish in Lake Susan (pick up a special permit at the Montreat Store). For a small fee, canoes and paddleboats are available for playing on Lake Susan. During the summer, the conference center also puts on an art, film and music lecture series, open to all and generally free (more tat montreat.org/arts-music-theology).

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